Principal offers parenting principlesWhen my son, a Denfeld student, heard I was having coffee with Tonya Sconiers, the school’s recently appointed principal, he blanched.
When my son, a Denfeld student, heard I was having coffee with Tonya Sconiers, the school’s recently appointed principal, he blanched. Discipline and high expectations have garnered Sconiers’ consistent respect from the Denfeld student body. As the gregarious principal and I sat outside a local coffee shop, one would never guess at the response of fear and trembling from her charges. Every person who passed by our table stopped to greet her, and she heartily received them with a sunny smile, handshake or hug.
I met with Sconiers not to discuss my son (to his relief), but to dig into some parenting advice I heard her give. As a parent, she had implemented a practice of having her children pay for their school supplies with their own money. With the school season approaching, this is an idea all of us can pull into our bag of parenting tricks.
When Sconier’s son was two years old, she rewarded him with small coins for his chores. Taking his pile of coins to the store, she demonstrated to him that if he got what he wanted, that pile would be gone. Even at that tender age he decided his coins were worth more than whatever the store offered.
Sconiers began to look for more opportunities for her children to practice thrift, saving and responsibility. She found a fertile ground in the annual school supplies shopping trip.
At the onset of the academic year, her kids make a list of what they are going to need. As the Back-to-School ads hit the newspaper, a ruthless hunt begins for the most extreme bargains on everything school-related. This has become such a positive routine that the young Sconierses hunt for bargains all summer long as they vacation.
They invest energy into this hunt because it is their own money they are using — and saving. Everything they buy has more value because their own sacrifice earned it. One year was a challenge, Sconiers said, when her son needed a $110 calculator. She let him know he needed to pay for it with his own money. He worked hard and was able to save for it despite his friends spending on movies and junk food.
“He treated that calculator well,” she said.
Sconiers has been pleased with the paradigm of thrift her children have adopted. At the end of the school year when other kids were cleaning out their lockers by tossing everything in the garbage, her kids were pulling out notebooks and pencils, assessing them for damage and saving them for the next school year — saving a bit of their cash and showing that appearance doesn’t always matter.
I asked Sconiers about the parents who don’t have the money for this.
“Find a way to teach the lessons you want them to practice. Find a way to help them learn about savings, thrift and responsibility,” she said. “This is a gift to your children.”
When they use their own money to buy necessities, they learn not to take for granted what is given to them. The expectation of entitlement is eradicated.
A parent of three young adults, Sconiers knows of what she teaches. “My parents always used to say, ‘Watch out for the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves,’” she said.
This pennies-to-dollars principle carries out in her school too. If you are a student at Denfeld and you drop a candy wrapper on the floor, you have to know that if Principal Sconiers is behind you she’s going to shout, “Pick it up!” She wants to help you watch out for your pennies.
Monthly Budgeteer columnist S.E. Livingston is a wife, mother and teacher who writes for family and education newsletters in northern Minnesota (and lives in Duluth). E-mail her at elivingston email@example.com.